Hold the jokes, folks. I know, I know, Xanga is SO 2005, but that´s what I have and I didn´t feel like setting up something more trendy like a wordpress blog or whatever. A blog is a blog is a blog, so here goes. Where to begin? I had planned to blog more frequently as to remember more and be able to tell more but then again, there are better things to do in Berlin and Barcelona than sitting in front of a computer blogging. My impression so far? Berlin is a gritty city with an edge, interesting Deaf people although I didn´t love the food nor is it particularily aesthetically pleasing, especially compared to Barcelona. Barcelona, on the other hand, with its maze of ancient streets and buildings, Gaudi´s influence and location by the Mediterranean Sea, is an assault on the eyes. And the food? The food! Save for a forgettable experience at a La Ramblas tourist trap where we blew 50 euros on a meal that consisted of a dull paella, uninspired tapas and a regrettable $6 coca cola, the dining in Barcelona is as good as advertised. Just avoid La Ramblas unless you have a specific recommendation. Othwerise, wander around Barri Gothic or La Riberia, look for a place packed with Spainards, and you´re good to go!
Berlin. On the plane from JFK, I watched what seemed like a bunch of extras from a Holocaust movie file into the plane. I know it´s been a while, but being a Jew it was hard to ignore the fact we were going to a place with that kind of history. Interestingly, we met some Deaf people and one of them signed ¨Jewish¨using Detuschland Sign Language and the sign is similiar to the ASL sign for ¨Dirty.¨ To his credit, he caught himself, his face horrified, and asked us for a better sign. I´m not sure if the stereotypical ¨beard¨sign is that much better, but it´s certainly better than, ¨dirty.¨The subleties of bigotry is expressed through the nunances of language so I could not help but pause and ruminate if it was truly possible for Germany to eradicate itself completely of anti-semitism in just a couple of generations. After all, we all know how hard that is by studying racism against African Americans in the United States. I had been told it was best not to broach the subject with Germans, but naturally I did anyway with a Deaf gentleman from Munich and his immediate response was to point out that we Americans committed genocide oursaelves with Native Americans as well as our long and horrible history with African Americans and other minorities. While all that is certainly true (although the guy seemed to assume that ALL Americans are oblivious to that fact and harbor no contrition about our own ugly history), the answer seemed somewhat deflective, but I´ll leave you, my dear readers, to infer what you will. I am, after all, biased and have a tendency to be cynical.
That aside, we immensely enjoyed our time in Berlin. Flat as a pancake, Berlin is perfect for biking and we rented bikes for 10 euros per 24-hour period, for two full days. There is no better way to see Berlin. On our third day, we ventured into the touristy area, to see the Reichstag and all that. Because we had been guided through the ¨real¨ Berlin by our Deaf friends there, (including an Italian expat, Rita, who linked us to everyone - many thanks to Rita! Every night we hung out at bars chatting furiously into the night - with that centuries-old social lubricant in liquid form infamous in Germany - with our new Deaf friends about everything under the sun from World Federation of the Deaf to more frivilous topics to the state of the EU) we were taken aback by the hordes of tourists swarming around snapping photos at everything. We didn´t feel like we were in Berlin but in a postcard of Berlin. It was a strange experience. We checked off the things to see on our list and hastened back to our floating boat hotel on the Spree river between Kruzenburg and Frederichshann - formerly West and East Germany. The highlights were probably wandering around Kruzenburg, especially the Turkish street markets with our travel companions Tom O´Grady and Angelina Nystrom who flew in from Sweden to meet us, and biking around the Prenzlauer-Berh and Mitte. The flea market we went to is the largest I´ve ever seen and has everything under the sun, including tons and tons of useless junk. Packed with Berliners shopping and sitting on the grass smoking and drinking beer. More than once the scent of hashish permeated the air. It was there where we met up with Rita and her friends and we sat on the grass under the sun getting to know each other. There is nothing like meeting interesting people in other countries and we are eternally grateful for the hospitality of Rita, Martin Ziergold, Oliver Markworth and others. The stay culiminated at the weekly Deaf gathering at a feminist bar (the first bar we were taken to that first night was a socialist bar - fascinating how bars have political connonations). This particular gathering swelled to about twenty in number because in addition to the regulars, there were Yelena and myself, a teacher from France, Jeep, Yelena´s childhood friend from Israel, Leah and to top it all off, a Deaf woman who taught Yelena drama as a child! It was quite a gathering and we´ll never forget it. Berlin has an energy, an edge to it and it´s truly irresisitible, I tell you.
I think I´m all typed out for now. Like I said, Barcelona bustles outside and I´m sitting here typing like a loser? Off to the Miro museum and the beach we go! Maybe some Pulpos and grilled clams at La Bombeta followed by decandent dessert at Bubo. I´m excited already. I´ll try to blog more tonight or later on. Tomorrow we rent a car and take off to explore Costa Brava and possibly visit Jeep in Toulouse.